From education to employment

Exclusive with LSC Skills Director for Employers

With the launch of the Learning and Skills Council’s Train to Gain programme this afternoon, David Greer, LSC Skills Director, explains the service.

“Train to Gain is a service rather than a product; an independent and impartial skills brokerage service. This works with the business to understand its business needs and then sources solutions from a range of quality, flexible and responsive providers.

“If you look at the current English workforce, 70% of whom seems to be the commonly agreed figure will still be in work in the next ten to fifteen years, then Train to Gain is crucially about working with the workforce, and there is a significant demand for it. Clearly the Learning and Skills Council has a whole skills agenda and works very closely with local authorities on new entrants to the workforce as part of the Train to Gain service.

“We work very closely with Job Centre Plus around potential adult recruits, for those who are looking to resolve recruitment needs. But our major focus is those people in work who require our support, to help improve their skills.

“The skills broker would discuss with the employer where the threats to their business are coming from, and those could be local or international competitors. They source international information from the OECD and the HM treasury for example, who pick up those particular issues. What skills brokers are keen to do is to get employers to think about the aspirations for their business. The skills broker can describe the types of opportunities and support that come through Train to Gain.

“We”re also working very closely with the Higher Education Funding Council for England, to look specifically at support from both the higher education and further education sector to help employers source either training or recruits, to meet those higher level challenges.

“We are running a number of higher education pathfinders to look at things like progression from successful apprenticeships through to foundation degrees and level 5 and above. We are doing quite a lot of work ahead of Leitch’s final report due late November, to make sure we understand the whole range of skills issues.

“The key to Train to Gain is that the skills broker feels confident they have the dialogue and is knowledgeable about what the opportunities for support are. There’s a balance between what the state contributes, what the employer contributes and what the individual contributes, to maximise the investment in skills in England.

“These brokerage services are regionally set up so it means that they need, as sources of reference, the kind of detailed regional breakdown that comes out of big LSC studies. Crucially, what the Sector Skills Councils are saying in their sector skills agreements; what the demands and needs of individual sectors. And finally you have the regional skills partnerships that describe and set regional skills priorities for an individual region. All those demands and needs need to be stacked together into a compelling story that can be told to an individual employer, depending on what size they are and depending on what sector and region they”re in.

“We have a significant broker development programme alongside our partners in the Regional Development Agency, to make sure brokers are competent and confident about actually delivering that service. We”ve led the development of the new national broker competency standards which all brokers have to achieve within twelve months of working under contract.

“It’s about professionalising the skills brokerage support service that is available to employers. The early evaluation of the first six weeks of phase one of Train to Gain is very encouraging. We”ve got 90% of employers who are very pleased with the service they”ve got, with 75% saying they”re extremely pleased.

“The brokerage service is targeted on what are described as small, hard to reach businesses; businesses that don”t conventionally invest in training in their workforce.

“We are working very closely with the SSC’s, not only in informational roles so that skills brokers are well informed. Also, a skills broker can”t know everything for everybody. It’s both information and further support from those SSC’s.

“Initially, we want to raise awareness and contact the employers to let them know the service that is being offered to them. We need to identify how to convert that awareness into action. The major performance targets after that are about the levels of engagement with employers. How effective are those skills brokers in agreeing an action plan and a training plan to discuss a way forward with employers, and crucially how satisfied employers are with that service.

“The tier one indicators for performance are about successful engagement with employers and high levels of employer satisfaction.

“With help from the likes of the Adult Learning Inspectorate, and these independent evaluations, we want to be clear that the quality of the training delivery is extremely high, and again, the satisfaction of employers and employees.

“This is a demand-led approach, with the employers very much in the driving seat”.

With thanks to David Greer for his time.

Vijay Pattni.

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